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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1584

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) (3:03 PM) —There are times when this parliament is called upon to consider what it takes to lead the nation—what national leadership means. There are times in the life of this nation when you have to make a decision on whether you stand for hope and change or whether you stand for fear. There are times in the life of this nation where you have to decide if you stand for the national interest or your political interest. On each of those decisions the Leader of the Opposition is decided. He stands for fear. He stands for his political interest. He does not stand for the national interest.

In the Leader of the Opposition’s position there are three important things to recognise: there is no principle in it; there are no facts to support it; there is no future in it. On the question of there being no principle the Leader of the Opposition has had five different positions on pricing carbon. There is no principle in anything he says to the Australian people or to this parliament. He has had five different positions on pricing carbon. Even the former Leader of the Opposition said that the current Leader of the Opposition has had all of these different positions and that he is a weathervane in politics.

First the Leader of the Opposition said that he respected the mandate of the government to introduce it. Then he said that the coalition should not be browner than Howard. Then he said that if amendments were accepted the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme should go through. Then he said that you cannot have a climate change policy without supporting this ETS at this time. And then he backflipped, described climate change science as absolute crap and decided his political interests lay in a fear campaign.

In the Leader of the Opposition’s position there is no principle. No Australian could actually know what this man believes about climate change. I suspect the worst thing of all: the absolute truth about it is that he has no beliefs. He is so hollow and so devoid of understanding what is in this nation’s interests that he has no beliefs. So he waits for a focus group, he waits for polling and he waits to see what the newspapers are running and then he decides what he believes that day. There is no principle in this and there are no facts in it at all. The Leader of the Opposition is on the record as supporting a carbon tax but now he is out there running a fear campaign.

There are so few facts in their argument that every day a Liberal Party spokesperson uses a different figure. They have no idea what the content of their fear campaign should be, so hollow are they. So the shadow minister for the environment in January was wandering around saying, ‘Families will pay $1,100 a year.’ Then in February he was saying that it will be $300. The shadow finance minister was out saying it will be $1,000 and the New South Wales Leader of the Opposition was saying that it will be $500.

What this should be reinforcing in people is that, day by day, they just go out there and make things up to try to create fear in the community. No facts, no principle, just a perspective about creating fear. Indeed, one of the things they try to do is create the impression that the tax burden on Australians is greater now than it has been in the past. That is 100 per cent untrue. Australia is less taxed now than it was when the Leader of the Opposition sat on the ministerial benches. If you want to pick the side of politics that has delivered lower taxation in this parliament, it is this side of politics with me as Prime Minister.

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for North Sydney was heard in relative silence.

Ms GILLARD —The Leader of the Opposition’s track record is of higher taxes. Of course, we know that he loves the levies if they are to pay for his election promises; he just hates them when they are to rebuild Queensland.

So there are no facts in this, and there is no future in this either—no future at all. Our nation is at an important crossroad about whether we have a clean energy economy for the future, with all of the jobs that that implies, or whether we get stuck in the past; whether we stump up to the challenge of this parliament to price carbon in the way that earlier parliaments stumped up to challenges like reducing tariffs, floating the dollar and creating the GST. We have to decide whether this parliament can stump up to this challenge.

Just like the challenges in the past, it is easy to raise fear. It is easy to go out into communities and say to people, ‘You’ll pay more.’ It is easy to say to people, ‘Your jobs are at risk.’ Fear campaigns are easy. What is harder, but what is ultimately right, is doing the reform work that makes us a prosperous nation for the long term. I am glad we had the courage as a nation to step up to the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, and we do not have less courage now than we had then. We are a creative, confident people. This is a big challenge but we can get it done. The Leader of the Opposition, as that challenge confronts, just says, ‘Believe in fear.’ I actually believe in the capacities of the Australian people: the capacity to innovate, the capacity to live in a way that is generating less carbon pollution and the capacity to create the clean energy jobs of the future. I believe in the skills and abilities of Australians to do just that.

Today we have seen the most grossly irresponsible statement made by a national political leader in the last 15 years. I campaigned against the GST, but once it was implemented I understood how devastating it would be for businesses to try to take it away. What the Leader of the Opposition has said today is that, if this parliament successfully embraces the opportunities of the future and prices carbon, he will go to the next election sweeping that away, with all of the consequences that will have for business certainty and for the loss of jobs that that will create. People who have moved into the renewables sector, people who have got themselves the skills they will need for the future—their jobs and prospects are to be trashed by this Leader of the Opposition. He talks about cost of living pressures on Australian households, but he has guaranteed today that if he is elected at the next election he will smash carbon pricing and he will rip out of the hands of Australians the generous household assistance we have put into their hands. He will go to the next election promising to make Australians worse off and to take away from them household assistance that will come with carbon pricing.

No-one should believe the Leader of the Opposition’s fear campaign. He believes in nothing. He stands for nothing. He has no facts to support his case and he has no ideas for the nation’s future. On this side of the parliament we have the courage to act. We understand what needs to be done. We must price carbon. We have worked with people of goodwill to work out how in this parliament, the parliament that the Australian people voted for, we will price carbon. I have done that just as prime ministers in the past have done that, just as Prime Minister Howard sat down with Meg Lees to negotiate the GST—working with people of goodwill to get a major economic reform through this parliament. We will bring in carbon pricing. It will create clean energy jobs. It will transform our economy. We will give households generous assistance. We will meet this challenge that our age requires us to stump up to. I will make this prediction: Australians are growing tired of the Leader of the Opposition’s scare campaign. They know: day 1, you go out and you try to engender a bit of fear, and people get a bit scared; day 365, you go out and engender a bit of fear, then it is starting to wear off. To the Leader of the Opposition I say: what will you say to Australians when we price carbon, when Australian households have received the generous assistance we will give them, when the system is working? How will he look then? He will look then as he looks now: a hollow man, worried about his political interest, with no ideas for the nation’s future.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Mackellar is warned!

Ms GILLARD —We will get on with the job. We will meet your fear campaign with facts, we will meet your fear campaign with courage and we will see this through. We will stare you down and we will get this done.

The SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Abbott’s) be agreed to.